Debt collectors 'invade' council offices

HARARE - Harare residents have given Harare City Council (HCC) contracted debt collectors a three-day ultimatum to vacate municipal district offices they occupied to collect defaulters’ payments.

This comes amid furore over the 10 percent commission charged by the debt collectors on every payment made.

Community Water Alliance national coordinator Hardlife Mudzingwa said the presence of debt collectors at council offices was unfair to long-suffering residents trying to settle their debts, without paying the steep commission.

He said they have engaged Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni with the hope to make council disengage services of the debt collectors.

“Debt collectors at Mufakose and Marlborough district offices are charging 10 percent as if they are a tithing evangelical ministry. We have given them a three-day ultimatum to allow residents to freely engage and demand accountability from HCC who are duty bearers.”

“Delay in giving an ear to such legitimate demands brew consequences beyond mere talk and discussion. Water activists are law abiding citizens but where there are attempts to steal money from residents, corruption will be arrested by whatever method at our disposal,” Mudzingwa said.

He warned that Manyenyeni should not delay evacuating the debt collectors from the district offices, failure of which would result in citizen action by residents as council should respect ratepayers.

When the Daily News visited Mufakose district council offices, the debt collectors had a payment booth next to the municipal cashiers, who are also collecting cash.

One resident Tryphine Mhanga claimed that despite making monthly payments to the debt collectors, her bill continues to escalate.

“It seems as though I am not paying anything because last month the bill was less than it was this month. I enquired how they had arrived at the amount and was told they would look into it. How many more are being ripped off by this scam?” she questioned said.

Council spokesperson Michael Chideme said the city’s position had not changed with regards to debt collectors.

He said they would continue using them until a full council meeting resolves otherwise.

“Engaging the debt collectors has been very effective. People are coming to our district offices daily to make payments and arrangements on their debts,” he said.

Since engaging debt collectors in October last year, council has collected $5 million-plus.

Meanwhile, the HCC this week began attaching defaulting resident’s property as part of efforts to recover its dues – $600 million-plus.

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